A personal portfolio
all photos & text by Don Roberson
all photos taken in California
This project features California's 58 counties and its two major island groups: the Farallon Islands and the Channel Islands. Together they comprise 60 significant birding jurisdictions within the State. Birders have become increasingly interested in birding the State's 58 counties in recent years; I keep personal life lists for all 60 areas detailed here.
    The goal of this project is to present a gallery of personal photos from these 60 areas. The thumbnail grid is essentially geographic in outline but on the county pages you'll find that you can skip coming back to this introductory grid and instead surf through the counties alphabetically. To start, click on any labeled photo to reach a county page.

     The boundaries of California counties arose historically for (generally) political, not geographic, reasons. Thus the Sierran foothills were chopped into many counties during the Gold Rush, and the Central Valley has been greatly divided. When California became a State in 1850, there were 27 original counties. The largest were San Diego (essentially the entire southeastern quarter of the State, north to Death Valley -- an area now part of 6 counties) and Mariposa (essentially everything east of the coastal counties from Monterey to Ventura -- it shared a long north-south border with San Diego County). Within the next 20 years (1850-1870) many counties were formed and much of our current alignment was stabilized. In the 1870s county lines, which had followed ridge lines or meridians, were redefined in terms of the U.S. Township and Range system. Numerous small changes occurred at that time. Another oddity occurred in 1872, when Ventura County was created from the eastern part of Santa Barbara County: Santa Barbara Island remained with its namesake county, despite its proximity to the newly created Ventura County. The final county created was Imperial County in 1907; it had been the southeastern part of Riverside County.
      One county was disestablished: Klamath County, which existed between 1851-1875. It covered a swathe of today's Humboldt County, north of Arcata, and parts of today's southwestern portion of Siskiyou County. In creating today's 58 counties from the original 27, there have obviously been some big losers. Today (2006) San Diego has the highest county list, but by just 1 or 2 birds. Its lead would be insurmountable if it still included the Salton Sea, the Colorado River, and Death Valley, as it once did. Imagine what the Mariposa County list would have been if the county still included the vagrant traps of today's eastern Kern County, as it once did. Shasta County once had all of Modoc County plus much of Lassen & eastern Siskiyou counties. Tulare County was another big one: it acquired Death Valley from San Diego in 1852, but lost it to the newly-created Inyo County in 1866. Trinity County once had all of today's Humboldt & Del Norte counties. Even my own Monterey County was larger; San Benito County was created out of eastern Monterey County in 1874, and then San Benito got bits of Merced and Fresno counties about 1893. [All this historical information is derived from Donley, et al., 1979, Atlas of California.]
      What this has left us is a smattering of big, little, and medium-sized counties, almost all of which have a wide variety of habitats. A good number encompass bits of the Central Valley grasslands all way up to the Sierran crest. Southern California counties are generally large: there are only 11 counties (including the Channel Islands, shared among 3 counties) in what birders call Southern California. The remaining 47 counties (including the Farallon Islands which belong to San Francisco) are considered Northern California. All counties have separate political bodies, with county Boards of Supervisors and the like, except one: the City and County of San Francisco is one unified government. Despite the disparity in number of counties between North and South, the 11 counties in Southern California have 67,352 sq.mi., or over 42% of the land mass of the State.
     For birding purposes, counties include the offshore waters to 200 nautical miles (nmi) offshore. A bird offshore is assigned to the county that has the nearest point of land to the observation, including islands. My more detailed discussion of county lines offshore is on the CBRC web site (following the list of standard abbreviations).
     In this county project, each county page features one prime photo and a maximum of two other bird shots and (if available) 1-3 scenic photos. Each page also has a short descriptive summary of the county or island set, and some personal reminisces about the photos presented or about birding that county. It is also hoped that no bird species will be duplicated between counties, so that in the end there could be up to 180 species represented (but in several cases I have posted 2-3 different shots of the same bird within a county).
     The photos were chosen primarily on my own eccentric eye for artistic effort, within the parameters outlined above, and illustrate a range of birds from very common residents to extreme rarities. Ideally, I prefer photos that show a bird in a habitat, or those that illustrate some interesting behavior, or some interaction with another species. Most of the photos are of that ilk; relatively few are simple close-up portraits. In a number of cases a photo is shown because it is only one I have for that county to date. The quality of photos vary greatly. Those shown here range over the past 40+ years (back to 1972), and I have had a variety of cameras and lens over those decades, some decent and some not very good. I will be upgrading photos in this project as I am able to take them.
     As in many of my web projects, this was designed primarily to be fun for me to contemplate and design. I set myself some rules and limits and then considered what I could do to fill the slots. I'll continue to try to obtain better photos for this project as we travel the State. And as the project has photos from as long ago as 1972 (and even back to the mid-1960s if one includes scenic shots) and others as recent as this year, creating these pages brought back a lot of pleasant memories.
Everyone is encouraged to bird their local county and any others that they fancy. Observations of interesting birds should be reported to the county compilers for North American Birds magazine, who summarize the status and distribution of birds in their county every season.

A current list of county compilers is on Joe Morlan's web site.

There are now many birders interested in county birding. One game played by some is the search for at least 100 species in each of the State's 58 counties. A bit of history about that game, and personal reflections on reaching my own personal goal, is on a separate web page.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I am grateful to all who commented on earlier versions of these pages, and made helpful suggestions: Bob Barnes, Bill Bousman, Matt Brady, Rita Carratello, Jeff N. Davis, Bruce Deuel, Tom Edell, David Fix, Rob Fowler, Helen Green, Steve Hampton, John Hunter, Robert J. Keiffer, John Luther, Ed Pandolfino, Gary Potter, Jim Snowden, John Sterling, Brad Stovall, David Suddjian, Jerry White, and Bob & Carol Yutzy. I also very much appreciate the help I've received over the years from photographers, especially with equipment choices and upgrades, and would like to particularly thank Ed Harper, Bill Hill, Jeff Poklen, B.B. Roberson, Dan Singer, and John Sorensen.

All photos & text © 2006 Don Roberson; all rights reserved.






Page created 19 Feb-26 Mar 2006